Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole's Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Often described as the best kept secret on urban AC radio, the incredible Maysa has just released her ninth solo CD, the totally outstanding Motions Of Love. Substantially produced by Chris 'Big Dog' Davis, the album is, in part, Maysa's way of moving on from a recently broken relationship yet, in purely musical terms, the original intent was to deliver what for her would have been a first, an all R&B recording. In the event it has evolved into a fourteen-track R&B collection dappled with funk, jazz and disco with a little New Orleans gumbo thrown in for good measure. Without doubt it is Maysa's most commercial project to date and at long last looks set to open her appeal to the wider urban mainstream.
Motions Of Love opens with the zesty 'Get Wit Me' which resonates with the jazzy attitude so prevalent in her early Incognito work while despite the CD's intensely personal nature the sensationally soulful title cut was given to Maysa by husband and wife singing - songwriting duo, Tony and Joann Kemp after a chance meeting at an Incognito gig. It has the sort of relaxed groove that is to die for and is an immediate personal favorite whilst when she ratchets up the tempo for the disco styled 'Love Sweet Love' the result is every bit as good. Written by Maysa, her bassist Charles Baldwin and keyboard player Damon Bennett this is a number which, for her, represents quite a departure and another is the sumptuous urban anthem 'Special Place' that has the potential to get in your head and not go away.
For the last couple of years Maysa has toured extensively with vocalist Angela Bofill who suffered severe stokes in both 2006 and 2007. Although these afflictions have left Bofill unable to sing at her previous standard she uses her live appearances to narrate her life story with Maysa singing the songs. Consequently the inclusion on Motions Of Love of Bofill's 1979 classic, 'I Try' is especially poignant and Maysa stays in reflective mode for 'When It's Over' that she wrote during a forty five minute plane journey. Davis' production incorporates attention grabbing horns and wonderful backing vocals whereas when she reprises the track later in the album, the addition of smoky sax from Carl Cox Jr provides an entirely new dimension.
Of course it is well chronicled how, back in 1991, Maysa went directly from Morgan State University to sing backup for the legendary Stevie Wonder as part of his Wonderlove backing group. Now, twenty years on, the pair are reunited as Wonder co-writes, plays harmonica and sings backing vocals on the romantically inclined 'Have Sweet Dreams'.
Another gem in an album crammed full of them is the delicious 'You Won't Find Your Way' that she co-writes with Kim Waters. It affords the perfect vehicle for Maysa's sultry yet heartfelt tones and although 'Your Name's Not On The List' takes her briefly into country blues territory she is firmly back on R & B message with the easy grooving 'Come And Dance With Me'. More mellifluous magic comes in the form of 'Flower Girl' for which Maysa enlists the assistance of neo soul artist Dwele and as she slips into an enticing Latin rhythm the outcome is the spiritually themed 'Hold On'.
However, given the R & B styled theme of the entire project my Secret Garden top tune is the high octane, retro tinged 'Day N Night'. With the ability to fill the largest of dance floors this shimmering song is Maysa's own tribute to disco divas such as Linda Clifford and Thelma Houston.
Motions Of Love is out now on Shanachie and comes highly recommended.
Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.
J E F F * D A N I E L S
Kiku Collins, Red Light (Canopy Jazz) (2011)
Drew Davidsen, Spin Cycle (Creative Soul Jazz) (2011)
Quintin Gerard W., Before It's Gone (CD Baby.com) (2011)
Reza Kahn, Simple Plan (CD Baby.com) (2011)
P E T E R * B O E H I
Muracle - Music Is Miracle (2009)
This urban jazz band was launched in Asia by saxophonist Jay Kim and keyboardist Minwoo Park in 2009, the upbeat, happy and extremely catchy songs deliver big time, the excellent playing is heartfelt and exciting, it has an old school feeling reminding me of a time when this kind of music was new and fresh. The best smooth jazz release to come along in a long time!
Kim Scott - Crossing Over (2011)
Flautist Kim Scott delivers a great flute led, funky and contemporary smooth jazz album. Hailing from Alabama, she brings some fresh music to the scene with this excellent CD. Nice covers of "Rain" and "Sweet Thing". Flute rules!
Hart Ramsey - My Next Heartbeat (2011)
This is the second release by keyboardist Hart Ramsey and it is another winner, featuring guests like Eric Essix on guitar and Kelley O'Neal on sax. Most of the tracks are laid back instrumentals with just the right amount of funkiness to keep our heads bopping, a smooth urban atmosphere permeates the album. Thumbs up!
Kim Waters - This Heart Of Mine (2011)
This is the latest release by veteran saxophonist Kim Waters, it delivers more of his trademark smooth saxophone sounds wrapped into a polished contemporary accompaniment. Catchy melodies, cool grooves and sexy sounds result in an irresistible package, giving the fans what they want. Solid stuff!
Session II - Session II (1979)
My nod to the past goes to this classic album featuring Lee Ritenour, Don Grusin, Ernie Watts, Alex Acuna and others. Great playing by all involved, this was a time when the players dared to stretch out a bit, without losing track of the melody or the groove. A timeless classic!
D E N I S * P O O L E
‘Love Song’ by Ramsey Lewis from the hot new album Taking Another Look. This spellbinding cut provides a timely reminder of the huge musical legacy that this legendary player has given to contemporary jazz.
‘The Groove’s Alright’ by Kim Waters from his excellent new release This Heart Of Mine. The title just about tells you all you need to know about this blisteringly up tempo tune which serves as a fine showcase for Waters immaculate playing.
‘Island Style’ by sax-man Richard Elliot from his brand new CD In The Zone. With a velvety vibe that owes as much to David Mann’s excellent horns and horn arrangements this is a track that finds Elliot at his fulsome best.
‘Two Roads’ by Hart Ramsey from the album My Next Heartbeat. This is the follow up to Ramsey’s stunning 2010 debut recording Charge It to My Heart which I described at the time as being one of the hottest releases of the year. The compelling ‘Two Roads’ is the first single from the new CD and features Sean Michael Ray on bass, Kelley O'Neal on saxophone, and Ramsey with both keys and drum programming.
‘In Your Sun’ by Khari Cabral from his latest release ‘Clementine Sun’. Entirely captivating, and with featured vocals from India.Arie, an enticing bossa rhythm blended with luscious horns should ensure this sumptuous song does very well.